President urges high voter turnout in face of Trumpism
President Hassan Rouhani warned Monday of threats to Iran’s "democracy and national sovereignty" in the run-up to the February 21 parliamentary elections.
"The greatest danger for democracy and national sovereignty is the day when elections become a formality," Rouhani said in a meeting with provincial governors.
"May God never bring this day," he added.
The remarks came after the Guardian Council, a supervisory body that vets candidates, disqualified thousands of nominees – including 92 sitting lawmakers, weeks before the vote.
The council, which oversees Iran's elections, says it has qualified some 5,000 candidates for running, almost one-third of the 14,500 those who signed up for the polls.
Candidates who are disqualified will be allowed to appeal before the elections.
Rouhani, whose moderate conservatives and reformist allies fear losing their majority in the upcoming elections, implied that the disqualifications risked appointments being made "elsewhere" than the ballot box.
In an apparent reference to ultra-conservatives, he said "they should at least let there be competition and high turnout".
“You claim that you will win the election. That is fine, but only allow the election be a competitive one.”
Rouhani also highlighted the need for diversity in the vote.
“It is very important that people feel they choose one from different thoughts. This is an election,” he said.
"Let us reassure the people and tell them our system is not a single-party system."
He said, “Public trust is more important than elections.”
“This parliamentary election is a very important election ... I have written letters to relevant authorities. Everyone should strive to resolve the issue of competition,” the president said.
Rouhani called on Iranians of all stripes to vote, "even if... there are shortcomings in elections".
"Sometime I may not want to vote for some reason, but some other time I may not have enough trust to go to the ballot box; this is very dangerous," he said.
Rouhani warned that the elections should not be held with “minimum participation”.
“I am calling on our nation to vote,” Rouhani said. “Even if you have criticism over issues and problems, please cast your vote.”
Call for national unity
The president also said Iranians should not allow US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” approach to harm national unity ahead of parliamentary elections.
“This is a matter of national interests. We should all stand up and not allow Trump to succeed in creating gaps between the establishment and people ... We should remain united ... Don’t turn your back on elections. Let’s have a high turnout,” Rouhani said.
“We have to be careful, they are terrorizing people's trust in the system," he added.
“We should not let Trump and those terrorists in the White House isolate Iran.”
AFP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.